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Byron Shire
May 17, 2021

Cooly festival funding under fire

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A Tweed councillor has slammed a proposed $20,000 allocation of ratepayer funds to the rock ’n’ roll nostalgia festival, Cooly Rocks On, saying it is predominantly a Queensland-based event that shouldn’t get more than other local groups.

The festival, which takes its name from Coolangatta on the Gold Coast and stages many of its events there, has been running for the past three years with big crowds of rockabilly, dancing and classic cars attending the 10-day event during June.

Last month organisers say the third annual event pulled in record crowds to the border area, but Tweed councillor Gary Bagnall says most of the economic spinoff goes to the Gold Coast.

Cr Bagnall says the amount recommended by Council staff in the annual allocation of event funding, to be voted on tomorrow, is much bigger than amounts proposed to be given to Tweed-based community groups, especially for youth.

He says the festival shouldn’t be given the largest amount of Tweed ratepayer money available at the expense of other more needy local organisations.

Cr Bagnall has argued at recent Council meetings that the amounts be adjusted so the festival gets less and other events, such as the St Joseph’s Youth Services’ mental health awareness family fun day, a little more than its slated $3,000.

But his pleas fell on deaf ears.

Under the proposed allocation, Cooly Rocks On stands out with the largest amount, of $20,000, which is $12,500 more than the next biggest amounts proposed ($7,500) to be given to two of the Tweed’s longest-running events: the Murwillumbah Festival of Performing Arts and the Tweed Valley Banana Festival.

In a total disbursement of $63,900 for 2013–14, the third largest amount of $5,000 is set to be given to the Tweed Foodie Fest, with the Twin Towns New Years Eve fireworks display and the World Environment Day festival the fourth largest amount at $4,000 each.

Lesser amounts

Most of the lower-order amounts in the annual allocation are for $1,500 or less, but some events get further amounts in a multi-year funding allocation.

Cr Bagnall said Cooly Rocks On festival organisers had originally asked for $30,000.

‘Even when that was reduced to $20,000, it is still a huge amount for a predominantly Queensland-based festival at the expense of small, local community events,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘Why do they get so much and others don’t? We should be giving ratepayer money to community-building and youth-oriented events instead of providing an economic boost across the border.

‘People argue that many attending that festival stay in accommodation in the Tweed such as Salt, but most stay on the Gold Coast as the festival is centred around Coolangatta.

‘I would have liked to seen extra given to events where our local youth play a big part or that are more traditionally local, as it then says we care about all these smaller community-based groups staging them.

‘The $20,000 for the Cooly festival is so much bigger than what any of these other groups get and, let’s be honest, it will mostly support businesses in Queensland.’

The Cooly Rocks On festival was set up in 2010 after the former similarly themed Wintersun Festival, which was held in Tweed Heads and southern Gold Coast venues for more than 30 years, was lured away by the former NSW Labor government to Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.

But late last year Wintersun went into liquidation after holding just two NSW-based events under the umbrella of the government’s event-funding agency, Events NSW.

Cooly Rocks On is co-funded and supported by the Queensland government and the Southern Gold Coast Chamber of Commerce, as well as Gold Coast and Tweed councils.

Last year it reportedly received a $180,000 grant from the Queensland government to be spent over three years.



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  1. I’m with Gary on this, UNITY didn’t get a quarter of that, and was a far more interesting festival which used local talent, as a ratepayer I’d be asking for a cost-benefit analysis before forking out that kind of dough to a pack of old Queensland bodgies.

  2. There has been a cost benefit analysis done by independent consultants. The overall benefit to the Tweed is in the millions of dollars. Yes there is a big benefit to the Queensland side as well ….but the GCCC Council and the QLD state government put in 10 times the amount that the TSC does. The local rotary club raised thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars over the weekend and a large proportion of this will be donated to the TWEED Early Intervention Centre. I am the treasurer of the CoolyRocksOn festival but also a local accountant…and can tell you there are a large number of my TWEED clients that benefit greatly from the festival.

  3. PS the youth stage was on the Tweed Side of the border and yes many Tweed youths performed on that stage to huge audiences.

  4. I dont agree with what he says…The Tweed based businesses do benefit…accommodation, restaurants, etc. Some of the events are held in tweed at some of the local venues including Seagulls, Sth Tweed sports, Coolangatta golf club, tweed civic so to say they are not getting any benefit is absolute rubbish. The festival brings in 1000’s of people and dollars…wake up tweed

  5. And Gold Coast city council has twice the budget of Tweed shire council. I think Cr Bagnall has his priorities right.


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